Sunday, October 19, 2014

"What I like about you - you really know how to dance!"

Brigitte Liem is an illustrator from the Netherlands. Her current project is "365 songs" - every day Brigitte posts a new illustration of a song on her drawing blog "Sketchbook". With Trade Your Talent she speaks about her favorite music and why her sister is her greatest inspiration.

TYT: Where do you take your daily inspiration from?

Brigitte Liem: I am inspired by many things and especially by cartoons like those from Marc Johns and Sempé, graphic novels like Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, the work of Mariscal and brands like Lazy Oaf, Callate la boca and Kukuxumusu. Also websites like Pinterest are perfect to spark new ideas.
For the lyrics project I get inspiration out of the lines of the songs. When you take a good listen to them they often are quite funny. Some days I have a song in my head all day long so that will be the one I am going to draw. Other days I switch on the radio to get ideas. People also give suggestions for songs.  

TYT: How did you come up with the series "365 songs" and what is your favorite song? 

Brigitte Liem: I started my drawing blog Sketchbook in February 2011 - a small drawing accompanied with some text every week day. After three years I found that it was getting harder to come up with new ideas for drawings. In this period I saw the work of the illustrator Lisa Congdon. She made a book with quotes, all hand lettered by her. She explained that the book was the result of her 365 days project where she practiced her hand lettering. 
I was inspired by that and decided to start my own 365 days project and to develop 'mixing hand writing with illustration' skills along the way. Since songs are like small stories I thought it would be fun to draw (lines of) lyrics. 

A 365 days project usually starts at the first of January but I did not want to wait for New Year's Day. So this one runs from May 2014 to May 2015. My favourite artist is George Michael. I love his voice and I think the song I like most of him is "Kissing a Fool".

TYT: Do you listen to music while you work? Which kind of music inspires you? 

Brigitte Liem: It is quiet when I draw. At other times I listen to the radio, preferably to the Dutch pop station 3fm. And I like to play the record player with many old records from artists like Marvin Gaye and Superstars of the 70's. It turns out that I draw many songs from the 80's. Maybe because this was when I grew up?

TYT: What is it like to be an artist in the digital age? What is difficult? What is helpful to your work as an artist? 

Brigitte Liem: It is a perfect time now: your work does not have to be in a museum to be seen. Through social media you can find your audience and you can see what other people are making and doing and be inspired by their way of working. 
The downside is maybe that social media is always 'on' which can make you feel restless. Also: by seeing other peoples work it seems like everything already has been done. So at times it is good to take a step back from the computer and disconnect.
Very helpful is that you can learn much from others on the internet, as well as they can learn from you. When you need to know something the answer is already available in online courses, explanatory videos on Youtube, etc. I recently discovered They broadcast creative classes from the world's top experts. I am a fan. 

TYT: If you could pick one artist in the world you could work with, who would you pick?

Brigitte Liem: I already work with the artist I want to work with: my sister Francis. The two of us run the illustration and animation studio: Studio Limón ( We create so called 'white board animations' and make illustrations for licensing and logo's.
It would be nice to learn from the best people in the animation and illustration industry. So if I could work with one artist in the world it would not be someone famous but with one who could teach me more technical tricks of the trade in illustration and animation.

Find out more about Brigitte: 

Monday, June 9, 2014

"How could I take what I love and use it to sustain myself, to contribute back to society?"

Zihan Kassam is a burgeoning artist and art-writer in Nairobi, Kenya. With Trade Your Talent she speaks about taking the leap to become an artist, why she likes to paint semi-abstract nature and what it's like to grow with the Kenyan art scene.

© Zihan Kassam: Blushing in the Light

© Zihan Kassam: Comradeship
Why did you decide to change your career?   

I worked in Toronto for a long time, as part of the down-town corporate rat race. I loved my friends and the people I worked with but something was completely off. I’ve always painted, always written, so it was an organic decision. I needed to be doing something artistic.   

Describe the exact moment you took the leap?   

I asked myself how I could take what I love and use it to sustain myself, to contribute back to society? I decided to make a bold move; to move back to Kenya where the art scene was growing - and grow with it.     

What do you paint?   

I paint semi-abstract nature. Old trees, grassy fields, stormy skies, barns and swamps. I like the idea of an old world – a reprieve from civilization and development, a place to repose.  

© Zihan Kassam: Golden Haze

© Zihan Kassam: Yellow Fever

Did you ever think that one day you’re art would be known?   

I sure dreamt about it and work towards it. After so many years, it’s nice to have a little recognition from press or frequent buyers but for the most part I prefer hiding away.   

What is the hardest part of your job and how do you handle it?   

The hardest part is balancing the art and the stories. I try to keep focused on what is important to the local art scene, what is new and who shows serious talent.   

Tell us something strange about yourself.   

I despise phone calls, seriously.
What is your pet peeve?   

Being interrupted while I’m painting.   

© Zihan Kassam: Solitude I
Has your career taken any unexpected turns?   

Well, it’s been three years since my first solo exhibition in Kenya and it’s been going well.  That’s a pleasant surprise. Also, when I started my new career I remember thinking that it would be nice to write about art especially Kenyan contemporary painters. Now I’m about 70 articles in, mostly for The Star newspaper.   

Are you nervous about your next show? What is it?   

The next series is calledElysian Fields.’ It features large expanses of land, air and water where the mind can roam free. I’m worried it won’t do as well as The Bicycle Man. I’ve been battling my canvases recently but hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll manifest my visions. And yes, I’m always nervous before a show.   

What are you looking forward to in the future?   

With the spotlight on East African Art, I look forward to watching the art scene in Kenya evolve and being a part of that transition.

Find out more about Zihan on her website
The Resemble Project

Published Art Writing by Zihan appeared in:

Art Life Magazine, The Village Beat, UP Magazine, African Colours, The Star

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Following your dreams" - Die Kleiderei

I think the biggest, but most exciting challenge for artists in the future will be to think about how they can turn their creative ideas into a business model. How can you turn your talent into a long lasting creative product, something that can have an impact on the community around you? One wonderful example I'd like to share with you is a project by Pola Fendel and Wilkening from Hamburg. Pola and Thekla met during high school in Cologne, currently they are studying Arts and Textile Management in Hamburg. In 2012 Pola and Thekla founded a creative business called “Die Kleiderei", where customers can rent clothes. "Die Kleiderei" became popular very quickly and they recently opened a second store in Berlin. Thekla and I have been friends since high school. We've always been sharing lots of creative ideas and we loved to write our own plays and novels in high school. Every time I meet Thekla I'm amazed how she manages to take care of her son, study and follow her dreams at the same time. With Trade Your Talent Thekla and Pola speak about what inspired them to start their own creative adventure with the "Kleiderei".  

What inspired you to start the "Kleiderei"?

Thekla and Pola: One Friday evening the idea of the "Kleiderei" just came to us. We  were excited to go out, but we felt we had nothing to wear at all. Usually we'd have gone out and bought ourselves new clothes. But since new dresses we'd buy spontaneously often turned out to be a mistake we thought: Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just borrow clothes, exactly for moments like these? We thought of a library , but for clothes!  We named it "Kleiderei" – the combination of the words library and clothing in German.  And we were sure that this problem was not only ours! Young people are constantly seeking for alternatives to shopping. 

Do you think more young people should just take the leap and start their own company?

Many people we know are very impressed that we had the courage to found our own company. But we never thought of it as being unusual or special; we just wanted to offer a solution to a problem - instead of waiting for someone else to solve it. I think that is the positive thing when young people take the leap and start their own company: they often know what the society lacks. Young people might have different needs than their parents or the older generation and the market isn’t always fulfilling these. On one hand we think we owe it to the world to create a new business, to implement new ideas and concepts. On the other hand it is also a very special experience to be an entrepreneur all of a sudden.

And we have already learned so much - not only good things of course. The process of founding is hard, at the same time we are lucky to have the opportunity to work on something we love. It has always been our dream to have a positive impact on nature and add to a sustainable world - this is why we want to offer an alternative to the current development in garment production, which is leading more and more to “fast-food-fashion”.  With the "Kleiderei" we are saving resources by keeping what is already there. 

Our dream goes hand in hand with making the world a little better.  There is no better feeling then when we’re working in our shop and one of our customers tells us that they have always waited for something like the “Kleiderei”. It makes us happy to be able to trade our concept with others and to see them enjoy it too. 

© Thekla Wilkening, Pola Fendel

© Thekla Wilkening, Pola Fendel

©Thekla Wilkening, Pola Fendel 
©Thekla Wilkening, Pola Fendel 

More about Die Kleiderei


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